Speakers at a webinar emphasised the need to adopt national policies to address the constraints of youth development so that the demographic dividend of the country can be fully realised.
They said the pandemic has created several obstacles for the youth and might ultimately contribute to rising youth unemployment.The webinar titled “National Budget 2021-22 from Youth Perspective” urged the government to focus on the youth and use their potential as a means of driving economic prosperity within the country.
SANEM and ActionAid Bangladesh jointly organized the event. Nahim Razzaq MP, a noted advocated for youth development, attended the event as the chief guest.
Nahim Razzaq said stressed that despite having significant budgetary allocations in each national budget, failure in coordination and implementation act as major obstacles for extending support to the ultra-poor and disadvantaged youth population.
Eshrat Sharmin, Senior Research Associate, SANEM, delivered the keynote presentation with ActionAid country director Farah Kabir in the chair.
The panellists included Md. Hasanul Islam NDC, Additional Secretary (Admin & Finance), Secondary and Higher Education Division; Mohammad Ismail, Additional Secretary (Program and Assessment), Ministry of Social Welfare and Dr Nashid Rizwana Monir, Deputy Secretary (Research and Policy), Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment.
Moderated by Dr Sayema Haque Bidisha, Professor of Economics at the University of Dhaka, the panellists also included Sabina Yeasmin, Senior Assistant Secretary (Budget), Technical and Madrasah Education Division; and Mr Farzeen Ferdous Alam, Chairman, Oggro Ventures.Dr Selim Raihan, Professor of Economics at the University of Dhaka and SANEM Executive Director also spoked on the occasion.
“Bangladesh is currently enjoying a window of opportunity during which utilizing the potential of the youth will result in enhanced economic prosperity. However, we are almost at the midway of the dividend period which will close around 2040,” said Eshrat Sharmin in her keynote presentation.
“The pandemic has created several obstacles for the youth and might ultimately contribute to rising youth unemployment, proportion of youth in NEET, social crimes, early marriages and so on,” she said.
“It is extremely crucial for the national policies to address the constraints of youth development and figure out ways to mitigate them in order to fully realize the demographic dividend,” the keynote speech emphasised.
Dr Selim Raihan said, “The two issues are very important. Firstly, to understand what is included in the budget for the youth. The one issue that is agreed upon is that the budget allocation for the youth is severely inadequate. The second is to understand the purpose of whatever is spent from the budget, and how much of that purpose has been fulfilled.”
Md. Hasanul Islam NDC stated that the education sector has been the most affected by the pandemic, leading to further social issues such as declining mental health amongst students.
He said this has led to the government carrying out initiatives such as appointing psychologists, and “there is currently a larger digital divide, which is not only between rural and urban areas, but also within urban areas.”
Mohammad Ismail expressed concerns about school dropouts and unemployment. He discussed the importance of looking into the proportion of the youth population and the rates of students dropping out and becoming unemployed.
He also underscored the need to assess the level of skills that should be developed and the kinds of jobs they can be absorbed into quickly.
Dr Nashid Rizwana Monir stated, “There is a large proportion of the population that has returned from abroad due to pandemic related health and employment reasons. Despite this, the inflow of foreign remittance has increased and makes up a significant proportion of the GDP.”
Sabina Yeasmin discussed the multiple projects taking place in the respective division related to both education and skill building.
Farzeen Ferdous Alam said the good initiatives taken in the previous budget have not been implemented appropriately, for example the stimulus package.
He said while he had applied for the stimulus package via banks for his company, he experienced difficulties in receiving the package due to the large number of conditions to be met.
“The conditions are even more difficult for smaller firms.”